NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Reform of the college football recruiting process is expected to be a main discussion point when the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee meets Tuesday during the first day of the NCAA convention at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
While final decisions are not expected until April or later this summer, we could still have a good idea of whether or not athletic directors and conference commissioners believe there is momentum to pass NCAA Proposal 2016-16 as it is. This committee will also discuss what modifications might need to be made -- or if it will fail entirely. Here's a look at what's being proposed, the decision-making process and the likelihood of holistic reform coming to recruiting.
On Oct. 6, 2016, the NCAA Division I Council unveiled components of a new model for football recruiting, proposed major cutbacks and restrictions to satellite camps, introduced two new early signing periods and changes to the official visit calendar.
The council proposed legislation that would cut the number of days in a year from 30 to 10 in which coaches were allowed to conduct camps. Only coaches permitted to recruit off campus could participate, and the camps would be required to take place on campuses or in the facilities used primarily for practice or competition by member schools, essentially ending lengthy nationwide barnstorming satellite camp tours like Jim Harbaugh's Summer Swarm Tour.
Those would be significant changes on their own, but most of the attention has been focused on new 72-hour signing windows that would open on the last Wednesday in June and the third Wednesday in December. The mid-December signing window is familiar, largely because it's currently when midyear junior college recruits sign their national letters of intent. The topic of early signing has long been debated in college football and was last tabled by the Division I conference commissioners in June 2015.
To coincide with the two new early signing periods, the NCAA said it would be willing to adjust the recruiting calendar to allow prospects to take official visits during the summer before their senior years. Recruits would be allowed to take official visits starting June 1 until the last Saturday before the June signing period begins. They would also be allowed to take visits July 25-31.
Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, the chair of the Division I Council, said there was a "mandate made very clear by university presidents to have the council work on comprehensive, holistic recruiting reform, including how to address satellite camps, early signing and adjustments in the recruiting calendar."
From there, the Football Oversight Committee, chaired by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, and a Recruiting Ad Hoc Group, chaired by Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst, spent nearly 18 months formulating what changes should be made. It was from those two groups Proposal 2016-16 was developed.
While all the different parts of the recruiting reform package are intertwined with one another, it's important to note: Two different bodies will actually vote on various sections of the proposal. The Collegiate Commissioners Association, a group made up of conference commissioners from the FBS and FCS, controls the national letter of intent and when recruits can officially sign with a school, and the NCAA manages the recruiting calendar, official visit schedules and satellite camp rules.
The CCA began its debate of the early signing period legislation in early Nov. 2016 at Big Ten headquarters and could meet again this week at the NCAA convention. After that, the CCA is expected to get together again in early summer, when many commissioners expect a vote to take place. The NCAA portion of the package is expected to be a big point of emphasis at the NCAA convention, and Phillips believes it'll eventually get to the council for a vote in April.
"That's where I feel we'll have a final agreement that will please hopefully a majority, if not all of Division I, FBS, autonomy and nonautonomy folks," Phillips said.
What coaches think
Last week at the American Football Coaches Association convention, the coaching community collectively took a stance on an early signing period. After a three-hour meeting that included more than 100 FBS head coaches, AFCA executive director Todd Berry said the coaching community is ready to take "a step toward multiple signing days," and FBS coaches are "unanimously in favor of a mid-December signing period."
"We think a signing day on the third Wednesday in December is the least intrusive to the current model and allows for the best study of what is best for everybody involved," Berry said. "We think this is a very, very fair way to take that first opportunity and step with the understanding that you need to take a look at all of your access points and potentially another signing date. But we think college football needs to evaluate this step first before you move from there."
Coaches are not in favor of the proposed June signing window and adjustments to the official visit calendar. Berry said there was "zero support" from FBS head coaches for the June signing period, mainly because there was concern about being able to accurately evaluate a student-athlete's academics. There was also "unanimous worry from the high school coaching community that recruits might sit out their senior season if they've already signed with a college." Berry also said FBS coaches are "collectively not in favor of adjusting the official visitor calendar" but would support the 10-day camp portion of the proposal.
Will it pass?
The coaches taking a stance on the mid-December signing window and other parts of the proposal was a significant development, and it adds a lot of intrigue to this week's discussion at the NCAA convention.
Berry will formally present the AFCA's stance on early signing periods and changes to the official visit calendar to the Oversight Committee, and he's hopeful now that there's a "mandate" and a "single voice" from the coaching community, the committee and that the CCA will listen to their feedback and make modifications to Proposal 2016-16.
There is strong belief among sources in the coaching community and on the administrative level that both sides will eventually meet in the middle, and the June early signing period will be whittled away and the mid-December window will be the only early signing period that comes up for a vote.
Phillips, MAC commission Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, who chairs the oversight committee, and Bowlsby believe the package is "very student-athlete and family friendly" and "would fix a lot of what's wrong with recruiting today." Bowlsby said the proposal would also go a long way toward cutting down on third-party influences in the process and also provide coaches with a better work-life balance.
"You don't want to allow the perfect to get in the way of the progress," Bowlsby said. "We got a proposal together that, if it stays together, it will be the most substantial change in football recruiting in decades."
Phillips agrees and is confident the proposal, even with some modifications, will eventually pass through the NCAA and the CCA.
"Perfect should not be at the detriment of a very good ... college football comprehensive recruiting package," Phillips said. "We can't let perfect be the evil of that. Will it be perfect? I don't think any of this legislation can be perfect, but this is major progress and a very good package overall. It's a much-needed package. I think everyone can live with that, and I'm confident we'll have [a] positive outcome that will empower prospective student-athletes and recalibrate the entire process to how it should be for everybody involved."